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Singing for Memory

Friendly singing group for adults living with dementia and their family carers

A group of adults laugh and play percussion instruments while sitting in a room with a white wall. A Singing for Memory session led by darts in Doncaster

Background

Singing for Memory uses the power of song, friendship, tea and conversation to connect people living with dementia and their carers with others. The weekly group, based at The Point in Doncaster, provides a regular, safe space for people to have fun, sing familiar songs and create new ones. Each session starts with a relaxed welcome with refreshments. After warming up our voices we sing a variety of familiar and new songs. We always make time for a cup of tea and a chance to chat.

Who is Singing for Memory for?

Singing for Memory supports Doncaster residents with dementia and their family carers, living independently. There is an estimated 4,517 people of all ages with dementia in Doncaster. Out of this number, 170 people have Young Onset Dementia (30-64 years). Of these people in Doncaster, 65% have a diagnosis of Dementia with 35% being undiagnosed. The number of Doncaster residents living with Dementia is estimated to increase 30% by 2030.

The needs that current and potential participants identify are mainly around loneliness and isolation, loss of identity and lack of confidence: “My friends ran to the hills when my partner got his diagnosis of dementia”. Carers tell us that dementia can make it feel like they have ‘lost’ their partner even though they are physically still there. Loss of conversational skills is often an early marker of dementia, and language deterioration has been identified as the primary problem in coping with the disease. Music and singing is proven to help those with dementia to remember, and connect with the present.

In October 2023 Singing for Memory became part of Doncaster’s Keep in Mind service for people living with Dementia. This service is managed by Age UK Doncaster and provides a range of community activities with partners darts, the Royal Voluntary Service, Alzheimer’s Society, Club Doncaster and Crossroads Care. To attend Singing for Memory you must be registered with Age UK Doncaster, who will refer you. You can do this by calling Kerry Francis at Age UK on 01302 812813 or emailing keepinmind@ageukdoncaster.org.uk

Trainee Tash plays a guitar while musician Luke plays an accordion, this is part of the Singing for Memory group.

Our approach

Professional musicians facilitate the sessions; their expert approach is different to other dementia services and the person-centred, flexible sessions are designed to gently challenge participants. We respond to the individuals in the room so that activity directly reflects their needs, interests and life experiences. Our skilled musicians are expert in drawing out people’s talents and empowering them to feel more confident and resilient. For example, when planning a session, we take into account the fact that one member plays ukulele, that another loves Elvis Presley, or that a gentleman came up with a comment that made everyone laugh, and will incorporate these into activities. Building on individual personalities is what attracts people to each other and we know that the arts brings out who people really are – beyond the diagnosis.  This approach generates memories, makes people feel valued, helps people get to know each other and develops stronger connections. 

darts · Singing for Memory – Autumn Is Calling

Programme Review and Evaluation

Participants tell us there is limited opportunity to engage in high quality cultural opportunities in Doncaster – especially when confidence and self-esteem is low. Issues include the daily challenges of living with dementia, the effect of the condition on family members and carers and the stigma around the condition that ultimately leaves people feeling isolated and lonely.

In 2022 we commissioned Dr Robyn Dowlen to conduct a review of the outcomes and impacts of our Singing for Memory programme. Dr Dowlen synthesised Singing for Memory evaluative materials and analysed ‘in the moment’ experiences of people living with dementia and their carers during Singing for Memory sessions, which led to four key observations.

Overall, Singing for Memory contributes to the ability of people living with dementia and their carers to live well across their dementia journey. The opportunity to participate in a sustained, long-term activity is rooted within people’s routines and makes them feel connected and supported. In the (near) future, the darts team hopes that Singing for Memory becomes an embedded part of dementia care offer in Doncaster – and seeks sustainable, long-term funding to be able to support people with dementia and their carers as they navigate the complexities of what it means to live with dementia.

You can read the full 2022 impact report by Dr Robyn Dowlen here.

Singing for Memory film

Watch our Singing for Memory film below and hear from our members about why it was so important to keep in touch with the group throughout the pandemic and how great it was to return to sessions at The Point.


dementia   singing for memory

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